Read on to hear Uru’s Founder, Ainsley McCallister, talk about her personal experience and challenges she faced while playing hockey abroad in Perth, Australia.
When I set off for my first season abroad, I headed to Nottingham, England. It was an amazing experience that made me realize just how far sport can take you and inspired me to pursue other possibilities. This season overseas was largely arranged for me by the US National Coach, and it all went very smoothly. At the end of my season in England I decide to arrange another contract to continue playing abroad, this time in Australia. While organizing my next opportunity on my own, I encountered a lack of reliable information available to athletes looking to play abroad. This was when I realized that the sporting world needs Uru Sports.
McCallister had limited contacts and further had limited knowledge
I was connected with, and had to decide between, two teams in Australia. I was set up with these teams through personal connections of coaches whom I met while playing in England. It was all very random and word of mouth. When trying to decide between the two clubs, I had little knowledge as to what sort of experience I would encounter at the clubs…actually NO idea! After England, I was still wrapping my head around the cool club scene I had experienced, which left me wondering if clubs in Australia or other countries would be similar. Would I receive the same level of support? Would there be comparable traditions? Would the competition be equivalent? Would the experience be as rewarding?
The two teams with which I was connected both presented me with an opportunity to play in Australia’s highest club league (the Melville Toyota League). After contacting both coaches for more information, I was left with a tough decision. The first coach told me he had great recruits coming in, with the plan to come in and snag the Premiership for their first MTL season. He also promised to get me involved in practices with the Australian national team, a compensated gym membership, as well as other great perks. The second coach was seeking a Premiership title after a sixth place finish the following year but couldn’t offer perks beyond a great club and intense training sessions.
McCallister only had the coaches recruitment pitch to make a decision on
In the end, I went with the first coach. I believed his club sounded very promising and would provide me more opportunity to be challenged and improve as an individual hockey player.
Fast-forward 7 months to the season’s finish. Despite working hard, my team just wasn’t up to the standard that had been suggested and my team unfortunately got relegated. Meanwhile, the other team I had chosen to pass on won the premiership. This is part of the game; you can try your best to succeed, but failure is always a realistic possibility. However, my team’s success ended up being the least of my issues. I did not receive any of the additional trainings promised and was left disappointed at the lack of support, professionalism, and quality of trainings after the grand promises that were made. I was even stood up by my coach on my last day in Perth when I was supposed to be re-paid for my gym membership. As frustrating as this was, the thing that irked me the most was that this type of thing had happened to the imported players from other countries the year prior. As a result, they all switched to different teams, leaving the import positions void for new, naïve imports such as myself to be lured by these false promises.
Looking back on my decision, I realize that I had no reliable knowledge of the club to which I was committing. I made my choice based on the only information available to me: the word of two coaches making their recruitment pitches.
It’s uber important to have the right information and support from the hockey club
I’m not telling this story for you all to think “poor Ainz.” Rather, I’m relaying this as a demonstration of WHY Uru Sports is needed. It establishes a checks and balances system. If the previous, unsatisfied imports had shared their experiences with me, I could have made a more educated decision and started my Australian experience off on the right foot. Experiences like mine are common among athletes of all sports who play abroad. Often, they are positive and rewarding (as mine turned out to be), but they can be a frustrating waste of your time and talent. My teammates were fantastic and I ended up finding other great opportunities to get involved with outside my club. This allowed me to make the most of my situation.
Looking back, I am thankful for this situation because it helped me to see the necessity of a universal platform to share past experiences, engage with players who have been imports, and to provide feedback on clubs. So much of your experience comes from the clubs and coaches you are set to encounter, and if the support is not there, you will not have the best possible experience.
You can make the most of an unfortunate situation with starting new hobbies and learning new skills but ‘wasting time’ through not being at a supportive club can be prevented.
Because the field hockey itself wasn’t what I was seeking, I found other fun things to get involved in- like surfing! I also used the amble down time to take online business and coding classes. My experience that first season, despite the actual field hockey, was AMAZING and made me eager to go back to Perth for a second season. This time, with a better understanding of the Australian club scene, I did the field hockey right! And happily, this is where I am currently writing this from.
If we can create a platform where people can share, learn and enrich each other’s experiences, it will be a whole lot less intimidating to take the LEAP abroad and there will be many more opportunities. With the knowledge of hundreds of other athletes at your disposal, you can feel good about where you are going and know that you will be a great fit.
An online platform is needed to educate athletes and keep them from either wasting time while overseas or being too intimidated to commit
Trust me, stepping outside of your comfort zone a bit and taking advantage of an opportunity to compete abroad and experience a new part of world is soooo worth it. I can honestly say that in doing so, I have had some of the best, and most memorable, experiences of my life. Don’t miss out!
Playing overseas can be an unbelievable experience. Connect with the right experiences and knowledge on Uru Sports.
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Perth, September ’16
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